Doctors in rural Maine worry about replacements

Doctors in rural Maine worry about replacements

NORWAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- According to a new study by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States is on trend to face a shortage of more than 100-thousand doctors by 2030; what that means is, doctors are retiring and fewer replacements are coming out of college, while our population continues to increase.

While that's a scary statistic for any of us, it's even tougher to swallow for more rural areas that aren't near a major hospital.

We sat down with one doctor who's been practicing in Norway, Maine for more than four decades and says he worries about the future of his patients when he retires.

Dr. Bill Medd is kind of a big deal around Norway, but that's part of the charm of being a small town doctor.

"It’s a little hard to go into the grocery store," jokes Dr. Medd. Even the new medical building bears his name, but he's earned that honor in his 43 years here.

"Came up here with my roommate from college. We were the seventh and eighth doctors in the building."

That building - at the time - was a converted house in the spot that is now Stevens Memorial Hospital. All of these years later, though healthcare in Norway has expanded, he's still one of just a handful of full-time doctors in the area.

"There’s two of us who could retire anytime and we’ve been looking for several years for an internist who wants to do as much internal medicine as we do but not looking to have necessarily a ton of support around them, because you are a little bit on your own," says Dr. Medd. "So not being able to find replacements is a real problem."

A doctor shortage is being felt throughout the nation, but even more so in rural areas. "We can’t find people who want to… One, they love Portland, they love Lewiston, they love the coast; we can’t get them into inland Maine," says Dr. Medd. "It’s challenging."

Dr. Medd blames part of that on the training. Most residency programs require rounds in hospitals, rather than small internal medicine offices, and those medical students are more likely to stick around where they're comfortable.

"We wanted to go somewhere we can make a difference and not just be another doctor in a pile of doctors," Medd says about his choice to move to Norway more than forty years ago. But the charm of small town Maine often isn't enough when compared to a busier career in a trauma center, more money in the big cities, and more support.

So what is the future of rural medicine, specifically here in Maine? Well, Dr. Medd actually helped get a new program going through Maine Medical Center called Maine Track. It sends residents to rural offices for training.

More on that story to come... 

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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